Home » You Have The Power To Erase Up To Three Styling Trends From The Car Universe, Past Or Present. Which Get The Axe?

You Have The Power To Erase Up To Three Styling Trends From The Car Universe, Past Or Present. Which Get The Axe?

2024 Mustang
ADVERTISEMENT

Here’s the thing about being in style: it never lasts. It doesn’t matter if it’s cars or clothes, furniture or footwear, music or mustaches (I had trouble thinking of an m-thing): as soon as everyone agrees on what’s totally cool, that’s a pretty good indicator those cool things are rapidly approaching their expiration date. One minute you’re the guy with his finger on the pulse, the next you’re throwing your parachute pants in the trash and crying in your room, face buried in a beanbag chair.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Now, for cars, styling trends can be particularly perilous. These are major purchases after all, so manufacturers are keen to make sure the new models look super fresh and modernly-styled, and naturally we consumers want our new cars to look all futuristic and rad and whatnot. But looking new and looking good don’t always go hand-in-hand, and time can be very unkind to what was once cutting edge. For example, remember when rectangular headlights were an absolute must-have? Round headlights were for squares, ironically. Heck, even motorcycles were wearing rectangular headlights. Gross.

Crosstrek Side

Today, car-styling trends are more diverse than ever. Some are tired but still innocuous (I can’t get mad at floating roofs), others were dubious when they first arrived and have only gotten dubiouser ever since. Plastic cladding, I’m looking at you. Literally, right now. I’m sorry, Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, you look like a frickin’ sneaker. And what is the deal with giant, hideous grilles on trucks and SUVs? Sorry if you read that in a Seinfeld voice. They’re like parodies of alpha-toughness. Don’t get me started on phony cheek-intakes so large that they would look at home on an A-7 Corsair. Especially when they’re fake, I mean come on. I could go on.

ADVERTISEMENT

And so, The Autopian Asks: what are three styling trends, past or present, that you would select erase from history? To the comments!

Top graphic image credits: Subaru Crosstrek/Subaru; 1959 Cadillac Coupe Deville by That Hartford Guy/Wikimedia Commons; Lexus LX600/Lexus; Cylon Warrior by Klapi/Wikimedia Commons

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
167 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Myk El
Myk El
11 months ago

There’s only one that was a true styling trend I would ban, plastic cladding, most notable by Pontiac in the late 90s, but many others are guilty.

I’d talk about the placement of controls one might want to change while in motion onto infotainment/touch screens, but that’s more of a cost-savings change disguised to look like a styling decision.

AKA Rukh
AKA Rukh
11 months ago

1) “Brand identity grilles” that are taller than they are wide (Lexus, Audi, Genesis, BMW, etc). The Toyota Avalon is also included in this, even though it’s grille is the entire front fascia.

2) Overly-busy surfacing (BMW flame surfacing, the Bangle-bustle, Honda and Toyota’s “angry gundam” aesthetic, anything from Rezvani).

3) Touchscreens without any actual buttons for frequently used functions like A/C, windshield wipers, radio controls, etc (almost every manufacturer is guilty of this, these days).

And They Called Him Gearhead
And They Called Him Gearhead
11 months ago
  1. Gloss. Black. Plastic. Like the kind that occupies B-pillars and random “accents” on your car that looks as though you took an orbital with 500 grit sandpaper to it the moment you drove your car off the lot. Eliminate it with fire. It’s planned obsolescence at its most insulting… other than interior gloss black plastic and delicate gauge cluster plastic that scratches if cleaned with anything other than a small white kitten (live and purring, I’m not a monster).
  2. Plastic hubcaps on steel wheels. Stop. Just stop it. Make alloy wheels or show some initiative and make a rad, stylized steel wheel. No one likes plastic wheel covers. Not one person.
  3. Dealership BADGES. How DARE you. I’ll include stickers also but… badges man. You are not discounting the price I pay for my brand new car to employ my services driving a rolling advertisement for you. Also, are you serious?? “Oh that’s a nice Kia. Wonder where they bought it?….crap, I can’t read the gaudy dealer badge. Guess I’ll never know where I can buy one!!”
Ryanola
Ryanola
11 months ago

Flashing third brake light- these are outrageously obnoxious in traffic. Instead of brake it’s brake-brake-brake every effing time.

Yngve
Yngve
11 months ago

1) Big stupid grills – Looking especially hard at you, BMW/Lexus/Toyota

2) Performative floating roofs – I don’t mind it when a designer fully commits by blacking out the entire B and C-pillar, but I can’t stand those little black stripes placed haphazardly on the C-pillars that Chevy and Toyota seem to favor (they look like misplaced electrical tape)

3) Insanely tall hoods on trucks. Seriously, I have to raise my seat as high as it will go when I take my Ram 1500 out on the trails, and I still have a hard time seeing what’s in front of me. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to drive one of those ugly ass Chevy HD beasts.

J Money
J Money
11 months ago

Dumb transmission selectors that somehow seem to skirt the federally-mandated PRNDL layout.

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
11 months ago

I could go on about aftermarket things like tinted windshields and the Carolina Squat but guess we’ll keep this to actual from the showroom floor issues:

Bumper covers instead of actual bumpers, a few times a week I’ll see someone who can’t afford the deductible running around bumperless, I joke that it’s ‘tricked out’ to reduce weight, but it’s so less dignified than just a bent up real bumper. Getting so bad trucks are starting to do away with them.

On that subject, trucks with hood/bed heights over 5′ tall, dangerous and useless, you can’t reach over the bedside to get anything in our out, and they can’t see anyone younger than 14 from the conning tower at the top, at least they have the 10″ ground clearance so maybe the kid will make it if they were centered well enough.

Thick A…pillars, I understand crash testing blah blah, but there’s ways to reinforce the A pillar to be sturdy but still not so thick you can lose a car/truck/Tractor Trailer on the corner in it, and pass safety. Subaru manages it, other companies could do some, I dunno, engineering or something and figure it out.

VanGuy
VanGuy
11 months ago

Cheating with four, but all categorically similar, I think:
Red rear turn signals, daytime running lights that turn off when the turn signal is active, brake lights that are just the taillights at higher intensity. Make ’em separate lights.
And, rear lights in the bumpers (good when they’re auxiliaries when the liftgate is open, very bad if they’re the only option).

67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
11 months ago

Big fucking grilles,tailights in bumpers,side-mirror cameras.

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
11 months ago

This is an easy one:

  1. Disappearing C-pillars from the 90’s, when so many carmakers thought they could fool us into thinking we had great visibility by hiding the prettiest part of a car’s roofline.
  2. Tail-lights in the c-pillar – they just look awkward, often leaving the midline of the car’s ass just way too bare.
  3. Headlights that had to swoop halfway up the hood – In the early 2000s I think this got done a lot just because we could? Either wait (looking at you Ford Focus and Toyota Celica), it ended up looking like that car was making an offensive face at us.
Uberscrub
Uberscrub
11 months ago
  1. Cheap gas
  2. touch screens sticking out of the dash-integrate that into the dash so it doesn’t look like i’m going to break the whole thing off when i put lumber in my car or my kid crawls up to the front seat.
  3. too many controls only in the touch screen.
  4. Pure BEV < BEV+range extender.
  5. bad visibility from: huge grilles, small windows, high beltlines, giant pillars, all of it.

I generally don’t care what other people like when it doesn’t affect me. want to make your jeep angry? thanks-now I know to avoid you on the roads.

Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
11 months ago

I agree with everything here but I’ll add a few

Cowboy themed trim levels. No one who gets these actually works on a farm. No one believed it 25 years ago, and really no one believes it now. It’s the Landau roof of our time.Raked hatchback and wagon openings. “Coupe” suvs are obvious but the non-coupe’d ones also have a noticeable rake to their rear hatches. I want it squared off damnit!Blacked out everything. 1993 called, they want their murdered out edgelord styling back

Last edited 11 months ago by Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
David Escargot
David Escargot
11 months ago

1. Fake vents and exhaust tips and other such nonsense – I didn’t sign up for Fast n Furious

2. “Angry” LED Headlights and faces that match – not all car buyers are 5. Muscle cars can be aggressive but your grandma’s runabout should look indifferent if not happy

3. High waistlines, especially on coupes and sedans that were actually meant for driving and not just commuting – the sedans of the 90s and early 2000s are the pinnacle of modernish enough to daily and big enough windows to see out of

All that said I think everyone needs a straight six and a manual gearbox in every application… get off my lawn

Rafael
Rafael
11 months ago

Portrait oriented windshield.
Oh, don’t know what I’m talking about? IT WORKED!

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
11 months ago

1.) The Lexus front end. All of them. I am so over the used maxi-pad look.
2.) BMW’s in-your-face huge gaping maw on the M3/M4. OMG. It is just so ugly…
3.) I-pad looking multi-function touchpads popping up out of the dash like toast, fresh and ready in the toaster. A dashboard should not look like a toaster. At all. Ever.

TJ
TJ
11 months ago

1. Whatever design style the 1996 Ford Taurus is.

2. Blinkers on bumpers.

3. Massive grills.

I don’t even know if the 1996 bubble-butt Taurus is a trend or not, but it sold enough that I would see them multiple times a day and those days would be a little bit worse because of that.

Vc-10
Vc-10
11 months ago
Reply to  TJ

Blinkers on bumper! Yes!

Who on earth thinks putting a key indicator light somewhere people don’t expect it and it’s easily damaged is a good idea?!?

JC 06Z33
JC 06Z33
11 months ago
  1. Fake exhaust tips
  2. Fake aero/vents
  3. Black wheels.
Isis
Isis
11 months ago
Reply to  JC 06Z33

I am so onboard with #3 and even have a set on my CTS-V

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
11 months ago

Modern BMWs. I lump that all into one bucket, and I want them entirely gone. BMW should just select all of their servers, and hit delete, fire everyone making decisions, and listen to enthusiasts. The brand has become a parody of itself, and it’s core fans no longer find it appealing.

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
11 months ago

This entire posting is spot on and speaks to a lot of us. Obviously current design trends don’t reflect our tastes. By reading this post in its entirity you have given us a roadmap back to sensibility and good design.

ProudLuddite
ProudLuddite
11 months ago

1. Massive Pickup Trucks and SUVs where the beltline is about 5 feet high and you need a step rail to get in the vehicle, and a step stool to work under the hood
2. Massive Pickup Trucks and SUVs where the beltline is 5 feet high and you need a step rail to get in the vehicle, and a step stool to work under the hood
3. Massive Pickup Trucks and SUVs where the beltline is 5 feet high and you need a step rail to get in the vehicle, and a step stool to work under the hood

FTTOHG
FTTOHG
11 months ago
Reply to  ProudLuddite

It’s crazy how bad this has gotten over the last 10 years. I have a 2012 Raptor and the latest mid-spec 4×4 half tons have window lines, tailgate heights and hoods just as high as mine riding on tires 2-4 inches smaller in diameter. In two generations vehicles with basically no off-road intentions have gotten as high as what were considered the most extreme factory off-roaders then.

Brunsworks
Brunsworks
11 months ago
Reply to  ProudLuddite

But what about massive Pickup Trucks and SUVs where the beltline is 5 feet high and you need a step rail to get in the vehicle, and a step stool to work under the hood?

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
11 months ago
Reply to  Brunsworks

Nobody’s making those any more. Now the market is just wall-to-wall massive Pickup Trucks and SUVs where the beltline is 5 feet high and you need a step rail to get in the vehicle, and a step stool to work under the hood.

Old Fart Parts Guy
Old Fart Parts Guy
11 months ago

My 3 trends i don’t care for: The wide delta d pillar..Who was the first car company to make it? The overly agressive grilles like the Lexus, and the body cladding.

Dávid Tóth
Dávid Tóth
11 months ago

Aggressive faces on cars. More happy faces like the NA Miata, Twingo, and Cappucino please.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
11 months ago
Reply to  Dávid Tóth

…and they have happy names…one of my favorite car names is the Cappucino!

Highland Green Miata
Highland Green Miata
11 months ago

Not styling trends, but stupid automotive “trends”.
1. Stick people family stickers and all variations
2. Ball sack dangling from hitch
3. Dealers putting their own stickers on the bumper
4. Spare tire cover that looks like a donut.
5. Eyelashes on headlights

Last edited 11 months ago by Highland Green Miata
Bill D
Bill D
11 months ago

I had a VW New Beetle as my last car for about 5 years, my girlfriend wanted me to put those eyelashes on it. I had the vase and flower on the dashboard but I have my limits.

TJ
TJ
11 months ago

4 out of 5 ain’t bad! I like the donuts.

Dinklesmith
Dinklesmith
11 months ago

BMW’s massive grilles. I hate them. They are an affront to common decency. They deserve a fate worse then death. They should fade into a purgatory, aware of their non-existence yet powerless to change anything. Do you ever imagine you remain conscious after death, aware that you rot away in a casket? Aware of every worm that consumes your flesh, yet powerless to move and fend them off? That’s what I want for the massive BMW kidney grilles.

Also, massive trucks.

Last edited 11 months ago by Dinklesmith
AlfaWhiz
AlfaWhiz
11 months ago

1. Everything touch operated – this is not how humans work. Making everything touch enabled and then adding haptic feedback to emulate a real button = lmao. Nothing wrong with physical controls for key functions at least.

2. Fake anything. Fake intakes, fake exhausts are now a thing, look up Audi fake exhaust and you will be amazed. Fake exhausts and grilles on hybrids and EVs also. I cannot even fathom why this exists.

3. Tight interiors, wrap around cockpits, enormous center consoles. Where did all the space dissappear? Why when I climb into an old car it’s so roomy inside, while anything new feels cramped? This together with high beltline/window seals.

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
11 months ago
Reply to  AlfaWhiz

Well you got it spot on. I need add nothing except the unlamented passing of the Low Rider phenomenon. My resentment for them comes from getting stuck behind a parade of them in SoCal.

Manu Munti
Manu Munti
11 months ago
Reply to  AlfaWhiz

I heard a SQ5 diesel starting up and leaving the other day and figured the noise was off (I know in Europe the SQ5 has a 3.0 diesel, as does the S4).
Turns out Audi put speakers to simulate exhaust noise. No, not piped in the car’s interior speakers, there are actual speakers underneath the car to make it sound like a V8.
Stupidest crap ever.

Last edited 11 months ago by Manu Munti
Bill D
Bill D
11 months ago
Reply to  Manu Munti

I would have plugged VCDS into that car and shut that off on, like, Day Two.

AlfaWhiz
AlfaWhiz
11 months ago
Reply to  Manu Munti

Good point! This should definitely go onto the list under fake things.

Tim Connors
Tim Connors
11 months ago
Reply to  AlfaWhiz

Stickshifts and safety belts, bucketseats have got to go…

CSRoad
CSRoad
11 months ago
Reply to  AlfaWhiz

“This together with high beltline/window seals.”

I agree, not everybody wants to feel like a tank commander.
Double death to windows that slope up dramatically to the rear like the once futuristic wedge styling meets an ingrown tail fin design. No wonder people need cameras to help them change lanes or navigate. As I turn my head I prefer the bottom of the windows parallel to the ground, helping perspective.

167
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x